Thank you very much for your positive feedbacks! Hopefully, this chapter doesn't disappoint. This has been edited from the lj version for whatever reasons.

I don't own.

Warning: AU, OOCness, Yaoi, language, appearance of novel-only characters (Thus far: Aoba, Awakusu-kai, Akane, and Awakusu Mikiya)

Recap: Akane is briefly reunited with her family, but it only causes her to push further away from them.

Mikado's apartment had the same layout as Shinra's did. Once you opened the door, you were greeted by a hallway. If you went in to the left, you came across the kitchen and den area. The right led to the living room, which connected to two other rooms. The difference between Mikado's apartment and Shinra's were the things inside it. For instance, Mikado's apartment walls were littered with Shizuo's framed awards, framed pictures of the people the informant regularly hung out with, and random posters of movies and games that reeked of the Yellow Scarves leader.

Shingen was waiting for them in the living room. His gas mask hid any expression he probably had on, but Izaya guessed the man had an expression of either annoyance for being pulled away from his real work or concern for Mikado who had managed to get hurt twice in two days. Besides him stood Anri, who had a first aid kit out and was looking at Mikado with a worried expression. Shingen began his work immediately, and Anri ushered the three teenage boys and one girl out of the living room and into the kitchen where Saki was waiting for them. There, the two women offered the children warm milk and cookies.

It was bizarre to say the least.

Shizuo didn't hesitate in taking the milk and leaving the kitchen to go back to the living room. Shinra sat with Akane, both enjoying the milk and cookies in silence. The two women turned to look at Izaya. Anri and Saki exchanged a secret look between one another before Saki pushed Izaya out the kitchen and towards the hall.

"Izaya-kun," she said softly. "You're working for Mikado-kun, right? Then I'm going to tell you the same thing Masaomi told me when we started dating. No matter what happens, don't try to get closer to Mikado-kun than what's strictly necessary. Today, he was lucky that it was Shiki-san who was protecting Awakusu-san. That's not going to always be the case."

"Lucky? He got shot," Izaya whispered back furiously. "He got shot this time; last time he escaped an exploding building. And before that there was another gun wound. How the hell is this luck?"

She watched him carefully; her sharp eyes bore holes into him and the teen couldn't help but to wonder what she saw. Did she see his anger? Did she see how scared he was at what she said? Did she see how shaken he was at Mikado's soft whisper? Did she see everything he was? Or did she see absolutely nothing at all but was good at hiding it?

"Izaya-kun, as someone who's a friend of Mikado-kun, all I can tell you is to get away from him. Stay far away from him and hope that you'll never get involved in this mess." She stopped for a bit, her eyes taking in Izaya's rebellious posture at those words. Then a soft sigh left her mouth and she closed her eyes. "But as someone who's also in love, I can't tell you to stay away. All I can tell you is to strap yourself down; you're going to be in a ride of hurt and betrayal."

Betrayal? Hurt? Love? What was she talking about? Izaya wasn't in love. That idea in and of itself was preposterous! He was just interested, that was all. It wasn't a crime to be interested in a smart and clever man like Mikado! It also wasn't a crime to want to get to know said man, who by the way, was also really good looking. Why Saki made it seem like one was yet another question in the pile of Mikado-related-questions that was starting to grow in the back of Izaya's mind.

Then Kida Masaomi opened the door and ran in, completely disregarding the fact that Izaya was having a serious moment of self-reflection. The Yellow Scarves leader stopped by Saki's side and pulled her tight into an embrace, whispering to her something about how he hated dealing with yakuza. Figuring that he wasn't needed (not to mention, who wanted to watch a couple make-out?), the teen made his way back into the kitchen, Saki's words still ringing in his ears.

Love? Yeah right.

"This one is yummier," Akane said, holding up double chocolate chip cookie to Izaya.

"Nuh-uh! Everyone knows that walnuts taste better!" Shinra insisted. He held up his favorite cookie to Izaya.

Anri just looked amused at the two.

The teen rolled his eyes and refused to take either cookie. He sat down next to Shinra, reaching over and grabbing a random cookie and biting into it. Ah, there was something rather soothing about eating sugar cookie, especially one that was obviously fresh out of the oven like this one. He sighed contently as the sweetness hit his tongue.

"This is really good," Izaya said. He quickly finished his and grabbed another one.

"Saki-chan is a remarkable baker and cook," Anri admitted.

Akane perked up at that. "Do you think she'll teach me?"

A soft giggle came from the kitchen entrance and Masaomi and Saki entered, their hands wrapped around each other. That was supposed to be a picture of a couple in love, Izaya mused. That was how people in love acted. They giggled silly at one another and wrapped their arms around one another. They made moon-eyes at one another, and they teased each other. They kissed, they laughed, they cried...

"… And then my beloved Celty arrived, just in time to save the day!" Shinra explained, waving his arms in the air to emphasize his point. "It was amazing! She just knocked down all the goons with her scythe and turned to me. With her hand outstretched at me, she asked me if I was alright. That was how I knew that she was the one for me. That there was no one else in the world but her."

How did Izaya miss Shinra's rant? What were they all talking about before this rant anyways? The teen shrugged. He figured it wasn't that important. Shinra went on a rant about his love for Celty practically every other hour, so he probably didn't miss anything important.

And so the discussion continued, Shinra about his love for Celty, Masaomi adding some details about his life somewhere, Saki and Akane both giggling and whispering cooking tips to one another, and Anri watching them fondly. Izaya just picked up another cookie and waited for something more interesting to happen.

By the time Shingen joined them in the kitchen, most of the cookies were gone and they were running dangerously low on milk. The doctor just sighed and said something about how his cute son was being corrupted but joined them anyways. He explained to the rest about why playing with guns was dangerous, as if it was easy to obtain it in Japan. The rest had just laughed along, throwing their two cents in.

Izaya took this as his chance to sneak away to the living room.

Mikado was on a comfortable looking couch, lying flat down on his back. Shizuo was sitting with his back against the couch, his hand holding Mikado's. The informant was fast asleep, probably knocked out by whatever Shingen gave him for the surgery. The yankee looked up as Izaya approached, a dark look crossing his face.

"Why are you here?" Shizuo asked.

It was a stupid question and Izaya made sure the blonde knew it. "Because I moved to Ikebukuro. Or did you miss that part?"

"No, as in… Why are you trying to get to know him? Why are you trying to get closer to him? And why… Why did you run towards him?"

"You ran too." Izaya was purposefully misdirecting the conversation. He wasn't going to pour his heart and soul to the stupid yankee! And surely not because he asked nicely. No. His thoughts were his alone, and no one had the right to hear it. "You ran towards him, too, knowing there was a gun."

"But I've survived gunshots before. I knew I would be fine even if I was hit again. But you… You're just a normal human. You don't have to be involved in this."

Shizuo's stormy brown eyes met Izaya's curious red. Of course, not only was the stupid yankee uber strong, but he was also indestructible to guns. Not that obtaining a gun was easy to do in Japan, but that wasn't the point here. The point was that if Shizuo could survive a gunshot, then what else could he survive? An oncoming eighteen-wheeler? Falling from the Eifel tower? Nuclear explosion?

"You've been shot before?"

"Not the point!" Shizuo growled, letting go of Mikado's hand to point at Izaya accusingly. "I'm saying that you're the most suspicious of them all! You move from middle of nowhere to here. You know things that normal people don't know. You've matched me in a fight with nothing but a small knife. You follow Mikado around like a fucking puppy. What the hell are you, and why are you here?"

Izaya frowned. What was he? He was Orihara Izaya, son of Orihara Shirou and Orihara Kyouko. He was Orihara Izaya, who had escaped the hell that was the small town in the middle of nowhere. He was Orihara Izaya, who had made it thus far on his own power, on his own knowledge. He was Orihara Izaya, gosh darn it! His name shouldn't need any other adjectives or descriptors after it!

But if that was true, then why was he there? Why was he there in the dinky apartment next door to the one that he lived in? Why was he there by the informant and the yankee's sides, as if he had been there all along? Why was he there when million little things had all pointed him the other direction and yelled at him to run? Why was he there?

Well, his logical side argued that this was interesting. This was something that no one ever saw in the small hellhole of a town. This was something that one could only find in Ikebukuro. And this sure as hell beat sitting in front of a computer, day in and day out, trying to come up with a better thing to do, looking for something – anything! – that would take his mind off of the crushing reality of real life.

But that wasn't the reason why he stayed. That wasn't the reason why he wanted to know more about Ryugamine Mikado. That wasn't the reason why his body reacted and ran into the path of a bullet. That wasn't the reason why he wanted desperately to stay there, by the informant's side, no matter what.

Because the reason for all of those was one and the same. And Saki had been able to see through him and advised him even before he knew what he himself felt. Because now, it made so much more sense. There was only one reason why because there could only exist that one reason. Everything else was excuses he created to hide.

And for once, Izaya didn't mind not hiding in front of Heiwajima Shizuo.

"Isn't it obvious?" Izaya said finally, once all of his thoughts came to the same conclusion. "I'm Orihara Izaya, the man in love with Ryugamine Mikado."

"That's rather dramatic."

Both teens froze at the sound of the voice. Mikado had one tired eye open and was watching them with a small smile. Shizuo tensed at the sight and shot Izaya sidelong glances of hate from time to time. Izaya, however, was too busy blushing to notice. All he could see was Mikado's eye on him, and he froze. Mikado had heard. Mikado heard his conclusion that he had just arrived on. Oh gods, what was the informant going to say? What was he going to do?

"Hey Shizu-chan, can you go get Masaomi and Anri? And Kadota, too I suppose. They're going to need to hear this. Izaya-kun, a word?"

The yankee hesitated for a beat. Then he nodded and left, sparing no backwards glance. Izaya wondered if this meant that he was in deep shit or he was going to get lucky. Then again, knowing the blonde, the first was more likely.

Once Shizuo was out of earshot, Mikado spoke up.

"Izaya-kun, do you know why I asked you to take this job?"

To be truthful, the teen had wondered about that. The answer to it could be multiple things. For one thing, Izaya wasn't from around here. That would alone gave him an edge that normal city-dwellers didn't have, as well as some camouflage. For another, it could very easily be that Mikado was impressed with Izaya's analysis skills. To be truthful, Izaya was hoping for the latter.

"It's because you remind me of myself," Mikado continued. He had both eyes open now, and despite the fact that Mikado had to look up to look at Izaya, the man excreted power. "You have a lot of potential, and I believe that you will go far. But with just a single step in the wrong direction, you'll end up as someone's toy."

The teen tried not to think about all the warnings he had received from everyone else. All the harsh looks and all the pitying glances. The same warnings phrased slightly differently from everyone else: Stay away from Ryugamine Mikado. And now he was getting a different variation of it from Mikado himself.

"That's why I need you to have all of your wits on you. The minute you lose that, you'll lose yourself. Doing drugs, drinking alcohol, falling in love, or anything that can hinder your thoughts are forbidden, do you understand? If that means you can't drink caffeinated drinks, then so be it. You cannot lose your wits, no matter what."

"That's not fair!" The words slipped out of his mouth before his mind could process everything the informant had told him. "You can't tell me what I can and can't do!"

"Izaya-kun, I've already lost Aoba-kun, and I'd prefer not to lose you. However, if you get in my way, I will not hesitate, do you understand? If I cannot come up with a reason to keep you, I'll get rid of you. It's a very simple thing. You're a smart boy, I'm sure you'll understand my logic."

And before they could continue arguing, the others filed into the room, a grinning Masaomi leading them. He leaned over to Mikado, saying simple greetings and mentioning something about Kadota being late. But Izaya was done listening in. He didn't want this at all. His mind was in a whirlwind of thoughts, all chasing one another in a never-ending disarray of chaos.

He stormed out of the room, ignoring any looks thrown his direction.

He wandered the streets of Ikebukuro with his hands in his pockets. He knew what he looked like, and he really didn't care. He hadn't had time to change out of his school uniform, and wondering the streets in Raira uniform with devil-may-care expression on his face earned him more than one look of concern. They probably thought he was some sort of a gangster-wannabe or something.

Stupid idiots.

Not that he really cared about what they thought, of course. His mind was still running through Mikado's words, which really didn't make any sense at all. Why was it so important that Izaya didn't fall in love? It wasn't even "Don't fall in love with me, I'm incredibly hot and sexy, but with a slice of danger and you might get hurt" type of speech. Rather, it was more of a warning telling him to stay away while remaining cold and distant. It was extremely annoying, and more so than that, it really hurt.

And this wasn't supposed to hurt.

Hell, he wasn't even supposed to fall in love! He had no idea how it had happened, or when it was that his interest in the informant became more than just a mild curiosity, but he was man enough to own up to what he felt in his heart. And damned he must be in a worse state than he realized, because he was sulking. Sulking because the one that he liked expressively forbade him from falling in love.

Who does that anyways? And what did it mean?

Izaya let out a frustrated growl and hunched his shoulders. The street lights were turning on, and the sun was quickly fading away. The people around him were slowly starting to retreat towards their own homes. A soft sigh left the teen's mouth. He supposed it was nearing time to leave the streets for the comforts of Shinra's apartment, but his feet refused to take him there. The back of his mind reminded him of the dangers of being alone in the streets of Ikebukuro at night.

He promptly ignored it.

Which probably wasn't his brightest of all plans, but seeing that his plans weren't going so well that day, he figured he had some leeway. But it still wouldn't have hurt to have his knife handy… He fisted his knife in his pocket and continued nonchalantly down the streets.

Izaya was about ten minutes' walk away from Shinra's place when the hair on the back of his neck stood up, and he felt a cold shudder run down his spine. Someone was following him. His hand clenched tightly around his knife and he contemplated on whether to face the person or not. The advantage would be that he could catch the other unawares. The only problem was what if the person wasn't there and he was just being paranoid? What if other people saw? What if, what if, what if?

He was thinking too much. That was what landed him in this position. So he did the next obvious thing. He walked towards an abandoned alleyway with purpose. He wasn't as strong as Shizuo, for sure, but he sure as hell wasn't a weakling. He had spent hours with his knife, practicing, moving, fighting. He knew how to use his knife to its full potential, and he wasn't afraid of using it on anyone.

And in the middle of the alleyway, he waited for the creep to attack him. Because this would at least get his mind off of things, and he desperately needed to stop thinking. He drew forth his knife and couldn't fight the smirk from forming on his face.

There was a dark figure by the mouth of the alley, slowly creeping closer. There was something strange about the way the person moved, but Izaya didn't put much stock into it. Maybe the person was drunk and the teen just had the unfortunate luck of being the target. If that was so, then the drunk was going to be in a night filled with pain.

"Love…" the figure whispered.

From the voice, Izaya guessed that it was a woman. And now that the figure was coming closer, he could make out the long red-brown hair that fell around the slim frame. The person held a kitchen knife in one hand, which would have caused the teen to laugh on any normal circumstances. But this wasn't a normal circumstance. His eyes caught the sight of the blood red eyes, and he couldn't help but to gasp softly.

"The Slasher only goes after people out alone at nights. And if you talk to any victims about it… All they say is, 'I don't know, I don't remember.' But if you prod them long enough, some of them remember blood red eyes, thirsty for blood!"

The teen's mouth felt dry. He had mentally laughed at it when he had first heard the gossip. But now that he was staring at the Slasher, he wasn't sure how to react. Should he rush forward and attack? Should he begin running toward Shinra's apartment now? Or maybe he was overthinking this and the lady in front of him was just a normal drunkard who just happened to posse a rather sharp-looking kitchen knife?

Oh, who was he kidding?

"Love," the lady said in a voice that sounded almost like she was swooning. "I love humans! I love you. I love everyone!"

Frankly, it was disconcerting and a little worrying. And Izaya was so distracted by the words that he almost didn't jump away when the lady lunged at him with the knife. He twisted and dodged, being sure to keep the point end far away from him as he could.

Now that they were this close, he could make out more details about her. She was wearing rather dirty button-down shirt that might have been white once upon a time. She wore what seemed to have a small resemblance to a pink tie around her neck, but Izaya wasn't too sure if it actually was a tie or if it was just some smudge she got on herself when she went around, slashing people. She wore short shorts and boots under that, but all of it was smeared with dirt and blood that made it hard to distinguish what exactly she was really wearing.

Not to mention, she smelled like she had been out in the sun all day, sweating and cutting people. Or perhaps the better way to phrase that would be "out all night?"

Izaya snapped back to present when she shoved the knife upward, towards his face. He moved to the left, sidestepping her with ease. Then with a swift movement, he sliced down with his own knife. However, she was swifter than her drunkard swaying had first portrayed, and she moved back away from the hit with ease.

"You're rather strong! I love you even more than before!" she continued to shout.

First Saki and now this random lady. Was everyone obsessed with falling in love all of a sudden? And that just made Izaya feel bitter, because obviously Ryugamine Mikado didn't feel the same way.

"Sorry, but I've got someone else." He wasn't sorry. Not one bit.

But before he could make another move, someone leapt out from the shadows and towards the lady, a katana in hand. Then using moves that could only be credited to something out of a samurai movie, the figure easily knocked the lady unconscious. It was only after the figure sheathed the katana, that Izaya realized who the figure was. After all, not many people had only one arm.